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Amazon Removes Orwell Books From Kindle

July 19, 2009

According to media reports, Amazon, erased George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and “1984” from Kindle ebook readers and reimbursed customers for the purchase price. The company said the move was necessary as soon as it had learned that a company that had no distribution right had added the ebook versions to its store.

“When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed the illegal copies from our systems and from customers’ devices, and refunded customers,” Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener told the New York Times. However, Amazon now thinks that the deletions were a bad idea: “We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances,” Herdener said. Sounds a bit like the dropped $200 fee for replacing Kindles that broke because of a protective cover Amazon sells.

The deletions of the Orwell books are somewhat ironic, as the novel 1984 imagines a future world in which privacy has disappeared. Describing a repressive, totalitarian government, Big Brother watches the population’s every move that is impacted by propaganda, surveillance and control. Amazon’s deletions may be beyond the comfort level of how much control corporations have in our always connected lives these days.

The New York Times said that the Orwell books removed were sold by MobileReference. An authorized digital copy of 1984 from the authorized published Houghton Mifflin Harcourt was available at the time of this writing. Animal Farm however, was not available.

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